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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR OCTOBER 2008

October  31,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

No, I would not do it, I would not give her the satisfaction of hearing the clump and stumble of my clay feet as I fled.  Better far to confront her, laugh in the face of her accusations--ha!  I would lie to her, of course; mendacity is second, no, is first nature to me.  All my life I have lied.  I lied to escape, I lied to be loved, I lied for placement and power; I lied to lie.  It was a way of living; lies are life's almost-anagram.

--Shroud by John Banville

October  30,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Everything which, in a great city, could touch the sentient faculty of a youth on whom nothing was lost ministered to his conviction that there was no possible good fortune in life of too 'quiet' an order for him to appreciate--no privilege, no opportunity, no luxury, to which he should not do justice.  It was not so much that he wished to enjoy as that he wished to know; his desire was not to be pampered, but to be initiated.  Sometimes, of a Saturday, in the long evenings of June and July, he made his way into Hyde Park at the hour when the throng of carriages, of riders, of brilliant pedestrians, was thickest; and though lately, on two or three of these occasions, he had been accompanied by Miss Henning, whose criticism of the scene was rich and distinct, a tremendous little drama had taken place, privately, in his soul.  He wanted to drive in every carriage, to mount on every horse, to feel on his arm the hand of every pretty woman in the place.  In the midst of this his sense was vivid that he belonged to the class whom the upper ten thousand, as they passed, didn't so much as rest their eyes upon for a quarter of a second.  They looked at Millicent, who was safe to be looked at anywhere, and was one of the handsomest girls in any company, but they only reminded him of the high human walls, the deep gulfs of tradition, the steep embankments of privilege and dense layers of stupidity, which fenced him off from social recognition.

--The Princess Casamassima by Henry James

October  29,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

At any rate we were scared, and that is the normal thing.  The German soldier is brought up on fear, trained to react like a machine through sheer terror, not to fight bravely because he is fired by a great ideal that makes it seem obvious to sacrifice himself if the need arise.  Perhaps you could call this moral inferiority the characteristic feature of the Prussian mentality and the chronic ill of the German people.

--The Legion of the Damned by Sven Hassel

October  28,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Classical music has little sense of horror about it, not because classical composers despised such an appeal to the nerves, but because they were unable to achieve it.  Dido's lament remains as deeply moving today as when it was written--we have to make no mental adjustments to the period in order to appreciate its emotional appeal; but The Echo Dance of Furies in the same opera can only be appreciated as a hieroglyphic of the sinister--it makes no direct nervous physical appeal as does the other music in the opera.  On certain occasions Purcell, the most picturesque of the pre-Romantic composers, could obtain an effect of strangeness and awe as in the amazing passage which accompanies the words: 'From your sleepy mansion rise' in The Indian Queen; but for the most part his flexible technique enabled him to express anything but the outré.  The same may be said of Mozart, whose music for the statue in Don Giovanni owes its effect more to dramatic situation and contrast of colour than to anything essentially strange in the music itself.

--Music Ho! by Constant Lambert

October  27,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

One of Roger's chronic difficulties was reconciling his belief in the importance of priests and the Church with his antipathy towards most of the former and aversion from most of the doctrines and practices of the latter, a conflict also to be seen in his relations with the Omnipotent.

--One Fat Englishman by Kingsley Amis

October  26,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

'I think I'll start with some of that,' Roger said, pointing at her.

He had some of that.  It was really quite good, well matured but showing no untoward signs of age and with the consumer's satisfaction borne very much in mind.  The trouble was the talking.  It ran in part:

'Oh yes.  Oh, it's great, it's so great, it's wonderful.  Oh, yes, yes.  Oh, you're so strong, so fine, so good, so good for me.  Oh, what you do to me, darling.  Oh, it's so great.  Oh, yes.'

He was not tempted to laugh--that had never been one of his troubles.  Even when he glanced up and saw a tortoise under a fern a yard away watching them he kept a resolutely straight face.  No: what this vocal accompaniment did was to distract him from that total absorption in his own sensations which he required from what he was now doing.

--One Fat Englishman by Kingsley Amis

October  25,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

He strolled the length of the room, glancing out of the picture window which gave so oddly little illumination.  A small deer was moving slowly and without evident timidity through a belt of conifers thirty yards away.  This sight caused Roger definite annoyance.  He was not clear in his mind how he wanted these people to regard the fauna of their country, but he could have done with less of their habit of hanging up an Audubon print wherever they felt like it and less of their excited wonder at harbouring so many species within their borders.  It stood to reason that any fool who owned half a continent was going to own a lot of birds and mammals and such as well.  They ought to have got over all that by now.

--One Fat Englishman by Kingsley Amis

[N.B.:  The full title on the cover: One Fat Englishman tells the adventures of an English publisher on safari in the United States.]

October  24,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

The outlook even of the educated was harsh.  Underneath a veneer of courtesy, manners were primitive; drunkenness and cruelty were common in all classes, judges were more often sever than just, civil authority more often brutal than effective, and charity came limping far behind the needs of the people.  Discomfort was too natural to provoke comment; winter's cold and summer's heat found European man lamentably unprepared, his houses too damp and draughty for the one, too airless for the other.  Prince and beggar were alike inured to the stink of decaying offal in the streets, of foul drainage about the houses, to the sight of carrion birds picking over public refuse dumps or rotting bodies swinging on the gibbets.  On the road from Dresden to Prague a traveller counted 'above seven score gallowses and wheels, where thieves were hanged, some fresh and some half rotten, and the carcasses of murderers broken limb after limb on the wheels'.

--The Thirty Years War by C.V. Wedgwood

October  23,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

The insecurity and discomfort of life encouraged irresponsibility in the ruler.  Wars brought with them no immediate upheaval since they were fought largely by professional armies, and the civilian population--except in t e actual area of fighting--remained undisturbed at least until the need for money caused an exceptional levy on private wealth.  Even in the actual district of the conflict the impact of war was at first less overwhelming than in the nicely balanced civilization of today.  Bloodshed, rape, robbery, torture and famine were less revolting to a people whose ordinary life was encompassed by them in milder forms.  Robbery with violence was common enough in peace-time, torture was inflicted at most criminal trials, horrible and prolonged executions were performed before great audiences; plague and famine effected their repeated and indiscriminate devastations.

--The Thirty Years War by C.V. Wedgwood

October  22,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

The Left was not ready, the Left was years away from a vision sufficiently complex to give life to the land, the Left had not yet learned to talk across the rugged individualism of the more rugged in America, the Left was still too full of kicks and pot and the freakings of Sodium Amytal and orgy, the howls of electronics and LSD.  The Left could also find room to grow up.  If the Left had to live through a species of political exile for four or eight or twelve good years, it might even be right.  They might be forced to study what was alive in the conservative dream.  For certain the world could not be saved by technology or government or genetics, and much of the Left had that still to learn.

--Miami and the Siege of Chicago by Norman Mailer

October  21,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

EPIGRAM

Take what you have while you have it: you'll lose it soon enough.

A single summer turns a kid into a shaggy goat.

--Anonymous from Pure Pagan (tr. Burton Raffel)

October  20,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

There is a kind of yoga in which the disciple is required to move very slowly, concentrating the while on what his mind is making his body do; until after months of practise (or, for the worldly and ungifted, perhaps years) the disciple feels each separate muscle move within himself, minutely obeying the impulses of his mind.  For Willie, in those first days of return to India, the mechanics of day-to-day life had become a kind of yoga like that, a series of hurdles; every simple thing had to be re-thought, learned afresh.

--Magic Seeds by V.S. Naipaul

October  19,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

An expert on local catch-as-catch-can, a small-time, often mediocre practitioner of small-town political judo, he comes to the big city with nine-tenths of his mind made up, he will follow the orders of the boss who brought him.  Yet of course it is not altogether so mean as that: his opinion is listened to--the boss will consider what he has to say as one interesting factor among five hundred, and what is most important to the delegate, he has the illusion of partial freedom.  He can, unless he is severely honest with himself--and if he is, why sweat out the low levels of a political machine?--he can have the illusion that he has helped to choose the candidate, he can even worry most sincerely about his choice, flirt with defection from the boss, work out his own small political gains by the road of loyalty or the way of hard bargain. 

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer

[N.B.:  One measure of the disintegration of a political system is to compare what passed for hardened cynicism in earlier times and see if it accurately captures the current state of affairs (or worse, in our own case, is surpassed by it).  How quaint to give a delegate even the fig leave of autonomy.  Nowadays, any delegate with the temerity to suggest dissension will have his or her credentials removed and be replaced forthwith.]

October  18,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

She questioned him with the affable condescension which poor people often show to those even poorer than themselves, and she saw fit to talk very loudly, in the voice she was accustomed to use with weak-witted or especially insignificant persons. 

--The Seven-League Boots from Across Paris by Marcel Ayme (tr. Noman Denny)

October  17,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

There was once upon a time a novelist named Martin, who could not restrain himself from killing off the leading characters in his novels, and also the minor characters.  These unhappy people, overflowing with hope and vigour in Chapter One, were apt to die as though of an epidemic in the course of the last twenty or thirty pages, often in the prime the course of the last twenty or thirty pages, often in the prime of life.  In the end these hecatombs proved harmful to the author's reputation.  While extolling his genius, people said author's reputation.  While extolling his genius, people said that so many premature deaths made even his finest works too depressing to read.  So they read them less and less.  And the critics, who had encouraged him at the beginning, began to grow weary of his sombre tendency, hinting that he had an 'artificial approach to life' and even saying so in print.

--Martin the Novelist from Across Paris by Marcel Ayme (tr. Noman Denny)

October  16,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"For myself, the primary, I would almost say, the sole requisite is depth of scholarship tried over years of organized research work.  I cannot feel happy that men in their late twenties, assistant lecturers like Roberts, or even recently appointed lecturers like Stringwell-Anderson, have the length of experience necessary, the historical background required for such important work.  I shall be told that they are brilliant, it may be so, I have never been a very happy judge of brilliance in vacuo, but, of this I am certain, brilliance that has not been tempered by the discipline of long years of apprenticeship to research will not give the History what it requires.  We shall get flashy stuff, Middleton, brilliant, unsustained flashes in the pan, unsupported guesses.  Such contributors will be straining to prove themselves--I don't blame them, they are not yet established as scholars, they have their future to make: I would have run the same risks at that age if it had not been for a climate of established opinion, now alas vanished, which discouraged such displays of pyrotechnics.  The History is the last place for such things.  

--Anglo-Saxon Attitudes by Angus Wilson

October  15,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"If it's dreams and visions that could make an artist," he would say, "I'd be the greatest poet of them all.  But I had never had the education . . ." and then he would launch into one of the many versions of his "hard" childhood to which most of his conversation ultimately led.  His roguish look, his ever so Irish dancing eyes would change to a sad little urchin look, and then, if the audience proved unreceptive, would settle into the sullen, depressed look which was his natural expression in repose.

--Anglo-Saxon Attitudes by Angus Wilson

October  13,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

I repeat, be nice to the lower boys.  I know that this may expose you to misunderstanding, and I do not wish you to flaunt intimacy with the more handsome youths of fourteen.  But I beg you, when you see a person as shy and as unhappy as you were yourself, to give him a kind word, a look of understanding.  You will answer, "Daddy doesn't know the conditions at Eton."  I reply, "Yes, I do."  They were just the same in my day at Wellington.  Human nature doesn't change.  And I know that in my case I found that when I got to your position in my house, the opportunity of being kind to little miseries, made up for all the unkindness and cruelty which I had received myself. 

Boys are generally insensitive.  You are far too sensitive.  One act of kindness on your part will compensate you for all the jeers of the worthless people who have laughed at you in the past.  Try it and see.  It will give you a warm feeling inside, in place of that cold sore feeling which you know.

--Portrait of a Marriage: V. Sackville-West & Harold Nicolson by Nigel Nicolson

[N.B.:  The quotation above is an excerpt from a letter Harold Nicolson wrote to his son, Ben.]

October  12,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Periods of discovery about yourself are seldom fun.  It's tough to realize how little you know just when you think you ought to know a lot, and that period immediately after graduation from college, when you suddenly realize for the first time that "commencement" means beginning, and actually you are just beginning to learn--to live--it comes as a terrible blow to your ego.  You become aware that all you really learned at college was how to learn and that continued learning is the true key to all existence.  That is its real importance.

--I Like What I Know by Vincent Price

October  11,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

'The Saxons have the two qualities that I value most in this world.  Two qualities that explain why they have inherited the earth.  Kindness and dependability--or tolerance and responsibility, if you prefer the terms.'

--The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

[N.B.:  The problem with generalizing about various peoples is that such cliches, even with a kernel of truth, are, ultimately, based on culture--and culture is infinitely malleable as the British have managed to prove, to their discredit, in the last half century since those words quoted above were put down on paper.] 

October  10,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

'There are a hundred thousand women just panting to look after some man's cold" why pick on me?'

'Because you are that one woman in a hundred thousand, and I love you.'

She looked slightly penitent.  'I sound flippant, don't I?  But what I say is good sound sense.'

'But, Marion, it is a lonely life--'

'A "full" life in my experience is usually full only of other people's demands.'

--The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

October  9,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Then you also want to ask yourself if you should get people angry."  McCarthy went on in a voice of the hardest-tempered irony.  "Once you get them angry, you've got to get them quieted down.  That's not so easy.  Lyndon, for instance, has never understood the problem.  He thinks politicians are cattle, whereas in fact most politicians are pigs.  Now, Norman, there's a little difference between cattle and pigs which most people don't know.  Lyndon doesn't know it.  You see, to get cattle started, you make just a little noise, and then when they begin to run, you have to make more noise, and then you keep driving them with more and more noise.  But pigs are different.  You have to start pigs running with a great deal of noise, in fact the best way to start them is by reciting Latin, very loudly, that'll get them running--then you have to quiet your voice bit by bit and they'll keep moving.  Lyndon has never understood this."

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer

[N.B.:  Apparently, McCarthy is still the only politician to grasp this point.  Treasury Secretary Paulson thinks he's driving cattle, too.]

October  8,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

Unless one know him well, or has done a sizable work of preparation, it is next to useless to interview a politician.  He has a mind which is accustomed to political questions.  By the time he decides to run for President, he may have answered a million.  Or at least this is true if he has been in politics for twenty years and has replied to an average of one hundred-fifty such queries a day, no uncharacteristic amount.  To surprise a skillful politician with a question is then approximately equal in difficulty to hitting a professional boxer with a barroom hook.  One cannot therefore tell a great deal from interviews with a candidate.  His teeth are bound to be white, his manner mild and pleasant, his presence attractive, and his ability to slide off the question and return with an answer is as implicit in the work of his jaws as the ability to bite a piece of meat.  Interviewing a candidate is about as intimate as catching him on television.  Therefore it is sometimes easier to pick up the truth of his campaign by studying the outriggers of his activity. 

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer

October  7,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

The homosexual plank proved the measure of lag between sex and politics.  To declare that there should be no legal restriction on sex between consenting adults was certainly a defensible idea of human conduct--one could even believe, if religious, that homosexuality was a mortal sin and yet see no reason for society to punish it, not when the soul would have its full impost of karma to pay.  There was of course the conservative argument that legal acceptance would tend to create an atmosphere of permissiveness, but, reversed, the argument was just as conservative: legalization was more likely to reduce anything gay or exotic down to the size of marriage.  Nonetheless, a plank supporting the rights of homosexuals was political suicide.  For it had the power to mobilize votes against you.  Out in America, far beyond Miami, lived a damp dull wad of the electorate.  They often did not vote.  It took no ordinary issue to fire their seat.  But the right to condemn homosexuality (and abortion! and welfare!) was a piece of their cherished rights: woe to the politician who would deprive them of rights.  Homosexuality had to go.

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer

October  6,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

In the mind of a political leader it is no betrayal to move away from people to whom you have made promises, provided your aim remains intact to fulfill the promise (or some part of it) when elected.  The dance in between has been an employment of one another; during the period of closest attachment, stature has been given, after all, to unpopular demands.  Now one might expect it would be obvious that McGovern was not going to capture the heart of America on a platform of abortion, legally free homosexuality and larger grants of welfare, not when thus hairy and wet a platform would be exposed to Nixon's oratorical gang for comment.  If McGovern had been sympathetic to such causes in the first phases of his campaign, it was probably the reflection of an earlier attitude that he would not win the nomination but could at least come to Miami with a solid block of delegates to deal for position. Having far surpassed such early expectations, the time had now come to separate himself with the minimum of damage, a delicate political act made more difficult by the high passions of factions so new to politics they could not understand that the basic shift of emphasis going from a primary to a Presidential campaign was in getting ready to plunge into the muck of public opinion, that same public opinion which was the direct intellectual victim of fifty years of polluted reporting and vested editorial writing.  Public opinion had by now a power of inertia which pulled every candidate (who wanted to win) directly toward the center of the cess as powerfully as the momentum of a spinning gyroscope will maintain the axis at vertical.

--Some Honorable Men by Norman Mailer

[N.B.:  Is Norman Mailer advising Barack Obama from beyond the grave?]

October  5,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

" I love you humbly and with no hope of return."

"You're never honest, are you?  If you'd said, 'Look, I love you in the Elizabethan sense--Lady, let me love and lie with you', I'd have respected you for that.  Instead, you don't attempt to define.  You hand me a word steeped in the treacle of popular songs and presumably expect me to be flattered."

"I never thought of that.  I was saying what I felt.  I was selfish enough not even to consider what you might feel when I said it." 

--A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

October  4,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"All right.  It doesn't matter.  I don't like hard feelings.  If anybody has hard feelings towards me it means I've failed.  I'm sorry I switched off that tripe.  No, it wasn't tripe, it was beautiful music.  I didn't realise you were listening to it.  I'll ask next time."  He unsighted the ball an instant and gave Ennis a professional smile.  And Ennis felt a split-second's gush of gratitude and admiration, this big strong handsome man who could smash him with ease doing the big strong handsome thing, but he froze the warmth quickly and muttered, "That's all right."  So here was another allotrope of God; the strong could afford mercy, retraction, even self-abasement.

--A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

October  3,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"You heard of Pelagius?  Morgan, his real name was.  Greek and Welsh for 'Old Man of the Sea'.  He's been called the great British heretic.  He didn't hold with Original Sin."

"I've heard of him vaguely."

"He was the father of the two big modern heresies--material progress as a sacred goal; the State as God Almighty."  He spoke glibly, as though perhaps he had often lectured on this subject to his men.  "One has produced Americanism, which is only a mental climate.  America's not real, it's an idea, a way of looking at things.  And then there's Russia, the end-product of the Socialist process.  We're both the same, in a way.  We both offer supra-regional goods--the icebox and the Chevrolet or the worker, standardised into an overalled abstraction at a standardised production belt.

--A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

October  2,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Europe's dying, all right.  I majored in History.  I guess I've some sort of background.  Europe used to be a kind of mythical world, like Homer.  Nothing counted till America, not really.  Oh, we read all the books, knew we hadn't a Shakespeare or a Cervantes, but the past was kind of artificial, like something on the movies."  Ennis and he drew on their Camels.  "Now it's different.  As I see it, decay is a kind of life.  To keep moving, to keep living anyhow--that's better, I guess, than reaching out for a dead sort of perfection."

--A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

October  1,  2008

Patrick: Lagniappe

"The eye is more important that the ear and has always been.  I agree with this little War Office pamphlet.  'Men learn through their eyes', it says."

"All right," said Ennis with some heat.  "To hell with music, to hell with literature.  Roll on the era of ideograms, cartoons and television for all, a golden age for the deaf and the voyeur."

--A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess